TV dinner trays and lunchboxes modeled after MyPlate

Following the launch of new dietary guidelines in the US, meals could become more compartmentalized and resuscitate the popularity of TV dinner and bento box trays.

A week after First Lady Michelle Obama and the US Department of Agriculture unveiled the new food icon MyPlate, makers of a stainless steel lunchbox are touting their product as its lunchtime equivalent.

MyPlate was created to serve as an easier visual cue for consumers and replaces the long-standing food pyramid icon which served as the dietary guideline for 19 years in the US.

Inspired by TV dinner trays and Japanese bento boxes, PlanetBox is a stainless steel, portable lunchbox originally designed for children. Like MyPlate, the container is divided into tidy compartments that aims to take the guesswork out of building a healthy meal.

Grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy are grouped in roughly the same proportions as MyPlate.

At the peak of the latest economic crisis, consumers in the US were brown-bagging their lunch more than ever, according to a 2008 report from market research firm the NPD Group.

Analysts found that weekday lunches increased from 35 bagged lunches per capita in 2006 to 38 in 2007. Of those numbers, researchers found that adult males and white-collar professionals were the most diligent at packing their lunches, mostly for financial or health reasons.

But brown bag lunches aren't what they used to be. Lunch ‘bags' have become more sophisticated, innovative and worldly, inspired by TV dinner trays, Japanese bento boxes and Indian tiffin sets -  tiered stainless steel stackable tins - that encourage brown baggers to move away from mundane ham and cheese sandwiches.

Tidy compartments could also help consumers build meals proportional to the dietary food guide.

PlanetBox offers a range of products that includes a carrying bag and dipper containers and is sold internationally in countries like Canada, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Qatar.

A basic set is sold online for $34.95 (€24) while the complete set is $59.95 (€41). Shipping is not included.

Amazon also sells tiered tiffin sets that range between $24.99 (€17) and $34.99 (€24).

Laptop Lunches in the US also sells Bento Lunch Boxes, kits that are BPA, phthalate and PVC-free. Bento Box Sets are $27.99 (€19) and they ship internationally.

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